Mädchen in Uniform is a classic of German cinema from 1931, directed by Leontine Sagan. It's based on the play Gestern und Heute (Yesterday and Today) by Christa Winsloe and it also became one of the first movies to explore the subjects of lesbian romance and Teacher/Student Romance. It had an all-female cast and was ground-breaking not only for its portrayal of said lesbian and pedagogical eros, but also for its co-operative and profit-sharing financial arrangements (despite the fact that the profits had been mostly retained by producers).
Manuela von Meinhardis, a new student at a Prussian boarding school, is sent to a dorm run by Fräulein von Bernburg, a teacher on whom all the girls in the school have a crush. Manuela goes a little further than most, actually falling in love with von Bernburg, which seriously jeopardizes their lives at the school.
A remake was made in 1958, starring Lilli Palmer and Romy Schneider.
This film contains examples of:
- Age-Gap Romance: If one interprets Manuela's feelings are requited. She's 14 and her love is at least ten years her senior.
- Ambiguously Gay: Fräulein von Bernburg's feelings for Manuela are left ambiguous.
- And That's Terrible: The narration is sometimes heavy-handed and breaks the Show, Don't Tell rule when trying to bring a point across. Prime example is the closing line from Frl. von Bernburg:"The girls have prevented a tragedy...which we both would have regretted all of our lives."
- Bittersweet Ending: The film ends on an ambiguous but bittersweet note. Manuela undergoes a Humiliation Conga and is banned from speaking to Fräulein von Bernburg. Fräulein von Bernburg herself is being kicked out of the school when she speaks to Manuela against the headmistresses wishes, though she states she would leave voluntarily nevertheless. The only thing stopping it from being a Downer Ending is that Manuela didn't succeed in killing herself.
- Chromosome Casting: The cast is 100% female. The only male presence on screen is a hearthrob actor whom one of the girls keeps photos of pinned to the inside of her locker.
- Description Cut: When the headmistress praises starvation and Prussian order as the ultimate force to improve her students, the scene cuts away to three schoolgirls discussing their favorite food.
- Driven to Suicide: Manuela tries to jump from the main staircase of her boarding school after she is banned from talking to her teacher.
- Even the Girls Want Her: Due to the limited selection at an One-Gender School, many of the girls are head-over-heels for their teacher, Fräulein von Bernburg.
- Fired Teacher: Fräulein von Bernburg at the end.
- Gayngst-Induced Suicide: Subverted in the film, with Manuela's classmates preventing her suicide. The original stage play, Gestern und heute by Christa Winsloe, ends less happily, thus fitting the trope.
- Glasses Pull: The headmistress pulls her glasses off in a dramatic fashion when she hears from Frl. von Kesten that her students complain about the lack of food at the school.
- Greeting Gesture Confusion: Between Manuela's aunt and Frl. von Kesten in the opening scene.
- I Kiss Your Hand: Done by Manuela towards Fräulein von Bernburg and done when she performs in the school play.
- Informed Attribute: When Frl. von Bernburg catches two girls sharing a confidential letter, she goes soft on them and destroys the note without looking at it. Afterwards the blond classmate explains to Manuela what an tremendously decent act that was of her.
- Institutional Apparel: The striped school uniforms look much like prisoner outfits.
- Interrupted Suicide: Manuela's classmates find her in time before she can throw herself from the top of the staircase.
- In Vino Veritas: When fourteen year old Manuela gets drunk, she ends up confessing that her teacher gave her a petticoat in front of her classmates, and unfortunately in front of the headmistress. After sobering up she is punished and banned from speaking to Fräulein von Bernburg again.
- Missing Mom: Manuela's missing mother plays a pivotal part in her attraction to her female teacher, in whom she sees a surrogate mother as well as a lover.
- Off-into-the-Distance Ending: The headmistress in the end, walking away in Stunned Silence over the mess she caused.
- One-Gender School: Set in an all-female Prussian boarding school.
- Precocious Crush: Fourteen year old Manuela falls for her female teacher.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Frl. von Bernburg, who is very supportive towards her students and is not afraid to speak up against the headmistress.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The headmistress gives one to Manuela towards the end of the story.
- Revised Ending: An alternate ending which subtly pandered to pro-Nazi ideals enabled continued screening in German cinemas for some time in 1933 and after, but eventually even this version of the film was banned as 'decadent' by the Nazi regime.
- Sadist Teacher: The headmistress, who doesn't hesitate to starve her students in order to teach them proper Prussian discipline. Her strict approach bites her in the rear at the end.
- School Play: Manuela plays the male character in one of these.
- Situational Sexuality: The enclosed environment of a Prussian all-girls boarding school is asking for this to happen.
- Teacher/Student Romance: One of the Trope Makers, with Manuela and von Bernburg. Other girls also have a crush on von Bernburg.
- The Von Trope Family: All of the schoolgirls have a "von" in their surname, indicating an upper-class heritage.